This remarkable movement was inaugurated by the late bishop of Durham, Dr. Lightfoot, at Bishop-Auckland, Durham, England, Feb. 14, 1888, Miss Ellice Hopkins being present and taking part. Dr. Lightfoot was led to this action by a study of the moral condition of those northern counties of England that came under especial notice, in connection with the reform work prosecuted by Miss Hopkins. Erelong it was found necessary to draw up a brief statement of principles, and this was mainly accomplished at a conference held at St. Peter's, Eaton square, London, Colonel Everett Poole being the chief author of this moral creed which, apparently, is destined to be as extended as the human race :

  1. To treat all women with respect, and endeavor to protect them from wrong and degradation.
  2. To endeavor to put down all indecent language and coarse jests.
  3. To maintain the law of purity as equally binding upon men and women.
  4. To endeavor to spread these principles among my companions, and to try and help my younger brothers.
  5. To use every possible means to fulfil the command, " Keep thyself pure."

The movement soon began to spread, and In due time it reached seats of learning like those at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Dublin, and then began to find its way to India, Africa, Australia, and Canada. Soon after it was begun in England, it attracted the attention of the young men of the church of St. John the Evangelist, New York City, and, through their rector (B. F. De Costa), they put themselves in connection with the leaders of the movement in England, receiving authority to proceed in the work of organization and to republish the White Cross literature. " Branch Number One" was thus organized.

After long and careful preparation the society held its first public meeting, Sunday evening, Feb. 8, 1885, in the parish church, the bishop of Iowa (W. S. Perry) taking the place of the bishop of New York (H. Potter) among the speakers. Accounts of this meeting were published the next morning in the leading newspapers throughout the United States, and from that day the White Cross Movement found itself one of the recognized institutions. The movement was at once taken up by many young mens' Christian associations, and the president of Branch Number One was called to visit remote regions of the country to aid in organization.

Though the White Cross Society is distinctly a society for men, all classes are invited to cooperate, and the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union at once organized a "Department of Social Purity, co-operating with the White Cross," in which work they have been followed by the Non-Partisan Union. Oct. 25,1886, several bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church, at Chicago, set forth a "declaration" in favor of the White Cross Movement, which subsequently received the endorsement of nearly every member of the House of Bishops, saying that "the object of the White Cross Society is to elevate opinion respecting the nature and claims of morality, with its equal obligation upon men and women, and to secure a proper practical recognition of its precepts on the part of the individual, the family, and the nation." This strikes a severe blow at the double standard of morality, which allows that what is sin in a woman is to be tolerated in man.

This platform was offered for the acceptance of Christian people of all denominations, and it has been widely adopted, both in the United States and Canada, where it has been carefully prosecuted in connection with the work of the Good Templars, the White Cross being associated with the highest degree. The White Cross Movement is co-operative, and associates itself with churches, temperance societies, Christian Endeavor societies, Sunday-schools, Bible classes, and guilds. Societies are now at work in every part of the land, and probably not less than one million of men are now individually, or through some society, committed to the work of the White Cross with a future of vast usefulness before it.

Under the direction of a publication committee, composed of bishops and others, twenty of the White Cross papers, together with à manual of the White Cross, have been published by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York City, the papers having been carefully revised by Miss Hopkins and published with her approval. To the White Cross Society there has been added a junior branch for bovs, entitled "The Silver Cross," suggested by the bishop of Central New York, F. D. Huntington, together with "The White Shield for Women," organized by Miss Frances E. Willard, and "The Daughters of the Temple for Girls," suggested by the undersigned, B. F. DeCosta.


Entry from The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge and Gazetteer, 1889

The White Cross Movement was a religious and purity campaign of the 1880s that attempted to address changing gender relationships as more middle-class women entered the workforce and the public sphere. See E.R. Shepherd's True Manhood, A Manual For Young Men, a Guide to Physical Strength, Moral Excellence, Force of Character, and Manly Purity (1888). Shepherd related a couple of pertinent anecdotes about the moral dangers that could snare innocent young working women, then solemnly admonished his male readers:

That young women are largely entering into business life and thus mingling much more freely than formerly in business circles, is no occasion for letting down the barriers of courtesy and consideration which should mark intercourse with them. Rather it is demanded that thoughtful young men create on these new lines yet higher standards of demeanor. A noble young business man of pure heart and life, and of princely bearing, said recently, "All of my young lady friends are girls who are self-supporting, and I am proud of them. I do not desire as my friends any other kind."

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